Much is at stake in journalist-shield bill by Gene Policinski

Original, August 21, 2008 Statesman Journal

At present, there’s no guaranteed protection in federal courtrooms for journalists who accept confidential information from such sources. Federal prosecutors and judges have shown an increased willingness to pursue whistleblowers’ identities, particularly in cases involving terrorism or claims of national security.

Such high-profile cases dominate headlines. But we also should be concerned about the potential to encourage or chill those who come forward on less-than-national-survival matters — issues such as drinking water or food safety, public-health statistics, fraud or abuse in road-building or errant law enforcement policies or practices, to name but a few.

The Senate proposal — like most compromises — offers something for many and likely completely satisfies none. The legislation does not shield spies, terrorists, crooks or eyewitnesses to criminal acts. Nor does the protection from subpoena apply in cases where officials can show there is imminent danger of death, kidnapping or serious injury.

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All of Us, the Arbiters of News by David Carr

Original, August 11, 2008 New York Times

Arbiter
1.    a person empowered to decide matters at issue; judge; umpire.
2.    a person who has the sole or absolute power of judging or determining.

This is an oped about how human nature and the Network Age are forcing the corporate media to bend to our will, and our demand for choice in news, information and content. The web and related networking technologies, as this article points out, can be a powerful positive influence on their news gathering and dissemination; trying to interfere with it may be their downfall. 

 

 

Emerging technologies that threaten to destroy the current paradigm can have precisely the opposite effect. Remember when VCRs and then DVDs were going to lay waste to the movie industry and ended up saving it instead? The Web leaks of entertainment that NBC bought and paid for served as a kind of trailer for the real thing.

There is a lesson there for rest of the media, most specifically The Philadelphia Inquirer, where the managing editor, Michael Leary, issued a memo last week suggesting that all of the paper’s good stuff — “signature investigative reporting, enterprise, trend stories, news features and reviews” — would not appear online until they first appear in print.

“For our bloggers, especially, this may require a bit of an adjustment,” Mr. Leary informed the staff. “Some of you like to try out ideas that end up as subjects of stories or columns in print first. If in doubt, consult your editor.”

Even to the eye of this reporter — to use a hack newspaper term — The Inquirer seems to be making a mistake. If the future of our business is online, then why set up a firewall, delaying the best content to protect a legacy product? And more adept reporters are beginning to realize that the Web is not just a way to broadcast news, it is a great way to assemble it as well.

Aussie science to make net 100 times faster

Original, July 9, 2008 http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23997209-2,00.html

COMPUTER users frustrated by slow internet connections could soon be surfing the web 100 times faster, all thanks to new Australian technology.

University of Sydney scientists say they have developed a new technology that could speed up the internet – and not cost users an extra cent.

Described as “a small scratch on a piece of glass”, the university’s photonic integrated circuit boosts the performance of traditional optic fibres, Professor Ben Eggleton said.

“This circuit uses the ‘scratch’ as a guide or a switching a path for information – kind of like when trains are switched from one track to another – except this switch takes one picosecond to change tracks,” Prof Eggleton said of the technology developed over the past four years.

A quarter of planet to be online by 2012, and able to understand each’s other’s language

Original, July 21, 2008 KurzweilAI.net

25 percent of the planet will be connected to the Internet by 2012, according to a Jupiter Research report, with highest growth rate in areas such as China, Russia, India and Brazil. 
Many of these users will be able to understand each other’s language, says Ray Kurzweil. 

He cites current developments in the speed and accuracy of statistical translation systems, which have improved exponentially in the past 10 years, such as Language Weaver’s automatic language translation software, which can now translate between 2,000 and 5,000 words per minute on a single CPU, using proprietary statistical translation algorithms. He also cites Apptek’s hybrid machine translation (HMT) system, which integrates statistical and rule-based processing.

2006 Zogby Poll: 92% Support Public’s Right to Monitor Vote Count

I favor paper ballots marked secretly/cast publicly, hand counted in full public view on election night in the local precincts with results posted immediately in the precinct and online, with numerous independent exit polls to verify the results. I also favor campaign finance reform; getting corporate money out of the political process. Less commericals and more debates, including 3rd party and independent candidates. Range voting and Approval Voting offer better security, choice and reflection of the People’s will than instant run-off voting. If “elites” are really elite, they should be able to compete on a level playing field with the rest of us. Level the playing field, and let the best hearts, minds and ideas be seen and succeed.

Original, August 23, 2006 http://www.zogby.com/News/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1163

A majority of Americans—61%—are aware of news reports of flaws in electronic voting machines and want members of the general public to be able to watch votes be counted following an election, a new Zogby International poll shows.

The telephone survey of 1,018 likely voters was conducted Aug. 11-15, 2006. It carries a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

Asked whether Americans have the right to view and obtain information about how elections officials count votes, 92% of respondents concurred.

 

“The 92% support for the public’s right to view vote counting and obtain information about it is a very strong political value of transparency and against secret vote counting outside the observation of the public,” said Paul Lehto, a lawyer and sponsor of the survey. “To put this figure in context, support for election transparency exceeds the support for tax cuts, exceeds the approval of Pres. Bush immediately after 9-11, and virtually all other political values being measured.” Mr. Lehto is counsel in the 50th Congressional District election contest in California.

 

Most of those surveyed— 80%—said they want votes to be counted in front of observers representing the public, and that elections officials should not rely solely on the proprietary software that operates electronic voting machines that are presently being installed all over the United States. 

 

 

 

[Smarter than Humans?] Why We Can Be Confident of Turing Test Capability Within a Quarter Century by Ray Kurzweil

Original, July 13, 2006 http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0683.html?printable=1

Of the three primary revolutions underlying the Singularity (G, N, and R), the most profound is R, which refers to the creation of nonbiological intelligence that exceeds that of unenhanced humans. A more intelligent process will inherently outcompete one that is less intelligent, making intelligence the most powerful force in the universe.

While the “R” in GNR stands for robotics, the real issue involved here is strong AI (artificial intelligence that exceedshuman intelligence). The standard reason for emphasizing robotics in this formulation is that intelligence needs an embodiment, a physical presence, to affect the world. I disagree with the emphasis on physical presence, however, for I believe that the central concern is intelligence. Intelligence will inherently find a way to influence the world, including creating its own means for embodiment and physical manipulation. Furthermore, we can include physical skills as a fundamental part of intelligence; a large portion of the human brain (the cerebellum, comprising more than half our neurons), for example, is devoted to coordinating our skills and muscles.

Artificial intelligence at human levels will necessarily greatly exceed human intelligence for several reasons. As I pointed out earlier machines can readily share their knowledge. As unenhanced humans we do not have the means of sharing the vast patterns of interneuronal connections andneurotransmitter-concentration levels that comprise ourlearning, knowledge, and skills, other than through slow,language-based communication. Of course, even this methodof communication has been very beneficial, as it has distinguished us from other animals and has been an enabling factor in the creation of technology.

Human skills are able to develop only in ways that have beenevolutionarily encouraged. Those skills, which are primarily based on massively parallel pattern recognition, provide proficiency for certain tasks, such as distinguishing faces, identifying objects, and recognizing language sounds. But they’re not suited for many others, such as determining patterns in financial data. Once we fully master pattern-recognition paradigms, machine methods can apply these techniques to any type of pattern.2

Advance brings low-cost, bright LED lighting closer to reality

Original, July 17, 2008 http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2008b/080717SandsLighting.html

 WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Researchers at Purdue University have overcome a major obstacle in reducing the cost of “solid state lighting,” a technology that could cut electricity consumption by 10 percent if widely adopted.

The technology, called light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, is about four times more efficient than conventional incandescent lights and more environmentally friendly than compact fluorescent bulbs. The LEDs also are expected to be far longer lasting than conventional lighting, lasting perhaps as long as 15 years before burning out.

“The LED technology has the potential of replacing all incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, which would have dramatic energy and environmental ramifications,” said Timothy D. Sands, the Basil S. Turner Professor of Materials Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The LED lights are about as efficient as compact fluorescent lights, which contain harmful mercury.

But LED lights now on the market are prohibitively expensive, in part because they are created on a substrate, or first layer, of sapphire. The Purdue researchers have solved this problem by developing a technique to create LEDs on low-cost, metal-coated silicon wafers, said Mark H. Oliver, a graduate student in materials engineering who is working with Sands.

Findings are detailed in a research paper appearing this month in the journal Applied Physics Letters, published by the American Institute of Physics.